A Guide to the Best Things to do in Lijiang Old Town
Lijiang Old Town is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Yunnan province and all of China. This is no coincidence, considering the Lijiang Old Town’s beauty, charm, and cultural value. After traveling to the ancient city of Dali, I spent a day and a half in Lijiang Old Town – and fell in love! There’s so much to see and do in Lijiang, even if you only have a short time to explore!
Here are the best things to do in Lijiang Old Town.
Why visit Lijiang Old Town?
Lijiang Old Town dates back to the Song Dynasty (960—1279) and is one of the oldest places and an absolute must-see in Yunnan. The old town is one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the whole of China. Lijiang Old Town (丽江古城) is also included on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. The old town boasts picturesque streets , small rivers and narrow canals, over 300 ancient stone bridges, countless old alleyways and many antique houses.
Start at Square Market
The Square Market marks the center of Lijiang Old Town, where you can find useful things like ATMs or stations to top up your cellphone prepaid card. The closer you get to the center, the more touristy it gets. Therefore, I suggest starting at the middle point around Square Market and working your way further out.
- Admission: 80 Yuan/person for the maintenance fee of the ancient city
- Opening Hours: all day
- Getting there: Take Bus No.11, No.8 of the inner ring and outer ring, No.15 of the inner ring and outer ring and get off at Gu Chengkou Station(古城口站).
Explore the Minority Cultures
12 minority ethnic groups live in Lijiang Old Town and its surrounding areas, the most famous of the Naxi. Keep your eyes open, and you will probably see people of all the twelve minorities walking through town. If you like, you can even rent traditional clothes and pose for photos.
Various restaurants, guesthouses or travel agencies (which are scattered around the city) also offer entertainment programs like the Lijiang Impression Show (印象*丽江) or the Dayan Naxi Ancient Music Concert.
Conquer the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
One of the highlights of my visit to Lijiang was the famous Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yulong Mountain玉龙雪山). Luckily, the hotel we stayed at offered a special service and hired a driver who was able to take us straight to the mountain for around $40 USD for two people.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is the southernmost snow mountain in the Northern Hemisphere, with 13 peaks reaching over 4,000 meters. The highest peak is called Shanzidou(扇子陡).
If you dare to climb the top of the mountain, you must make sure to wear professional hiking gear and bring oxygen tanks. Visitors can buy bottles with fresh oxygen at the main ticket station at the bottom of the hill.
To start the hike, take the shuttle bus to the mountain’s picturesque bottom with lakes and waterfalls for a beautiful view. Since I felt very sick that day, I was unable to hike for a long time. I had to return to my hotel in Lijiang around 1.5 hours after arriving at the mountain area.
- Admission: 105 Yuan/person
- Getting there: Take Snow Mountain Line Bus No.7 from Lijiang Ancient City or rent a van from Lijiang to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain at 150 Yuan round trip.
Where to Stay in Lijiang
The Best Hotels in Lijiang
Lijiang has experienced an influx in tourism in recent years. This has also led to more and more hotels being opened in and around Lijiang Old Town. Whether you are looking for 5-star luxury stays at household names like Banyan Tree, Pullman, and Hilton, or affordable hostel dorms, there is something for all budgets.
Come and discover Lijiang!
If this guide doesn’t convince you to travel to Lijiang, nothing will! It’s a place I definitely want to return to and explore more. However, if you only have limited time, I strongly suggest to explore Lijiang Old Town and then venture off to see the beautiful Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
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